Shawn Murenbeeld has a collection of toys in his basement, and some of them are by his own design. “I wouldn’t call myself a toy designer,” clarifies the founder and creative director of Orangeville, Ont. award-winning graphic design studio, Touchwood Design. “I’m more of a character designer. I say this because most of the stuff I create are static figures made of wood.”
For Yet-i, the one-eyed one-off character he designed in homage to Tim Biskup, Murenbeeld veered away from wood to play with plaster. “It grew organically as I carved it,” he says.
“It was a study in simplicity, shape and form, and the contrast between the organic and robotic.” The wire-framed plaster model was outfitted with found plastic parts: an eye, hands, a strap, backpack and more, creating “a present day version of the 1953 Robot Monster,” the titular character from the cult classic sci-fi film about an alien robot sent to wipe out Earth.
Murenbeeld creates his playthings as a creative release. As both a lifelong collector and graphic designer by trade, his interest in toys is as much about packaging design as it is about the figurines themselves. Along with the sense of nostalgia and the thrill of the collector’s hunt, “the shapes, colours, imagination and decorative box art put a smile on my face,” he says.
Yet-i’s packaging, also designed by Murenbeeld, was 50% of the project and a good chunk of the fun. His seven-year-old daughter—who, he notes, has full access to his toy collection—is a fan. “She likes my projects a lot, but upon showing her, had a hard time believing that I created them.”
DESIGN & PRODUCTION TIME 7 days
MATERIALS Plaster, found plastic parts, wire skeleton
FOUND PARTS 10
INFLUENCE Artist and toy designer Tim Biskup
A version of this article originally appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Designedge Canada magazine.